When Home Run Totals Lie: Finding 2015’s Sleepers And Busts

Fantasy baseball is a game that is literally all about baseball statistics. The funny thing about baseball though is that it’s a long season and luck is bound to be a factor in creating those statistics. In the first of a few articles related to potentially bogus stats from last year, I’ll break down who might have had luck (good or bad) play a role in their home run totals from 2014. This will give us a good indication of how we might want to view them in 2015.

Doing this type of analysis would not be possible without the fine folks who invented HitTracker. Using that tool, we can look at all of the home runs from last year and see whether they barely were homers or whether they were no-doubters. We can also see, on average, how far a player’s homers were and how fast they came off the bat. All of this data gives us a good way to come up with some potential busts and breakouts for this year.

Potential Busts

For those that are potential busts, I identify the hitters who had a large percentage of “just enough” home runs without many “no doubt” home runs while also having a lower average distance and speed of their homers. All of that paints a picture of someone who got a few extra home runs on their season total because of balls that barely cleared the fence.

  • Hamilton, Josh (10 HR, 6 Just Enough) – Hamilton ended up missing half the season last year but it was still a far cry from his 43 HR season two years ago. It could be that he was playing injured and that’s why he wasn’t slugging as well but even his 10 HR last year were a bit lucky for him to get.
  • Cespedes, Yoenis (22 HR, 13 JE) – Cespedes bounced around a bit last and will be playing for yet another new team this year. Players who change teams are often a risky gamble anyway and the fact that his HR total seems to be inflated by a large number of JE homers gives another reason to possibly avoid Cespedes this year.
  • Gomes, Yan (21 HR, 11 JE) – Yan has forced himself onto the fantasy radar by providing some decent offense at the catcher position. However, if you’re looking for a decent source of power at the catcher position, be wary because it seems like he was the beneficiary of way more than a typical amount of JE homers.
  • Cano, Robinson (14 HR, 7 JE) – Holy crap. Cano may have still hit for average in Seattle but his power continues to decline dramatically. If you’re hoping that his drop in power was just a fluke, unfortunately it’s not. It looks like it could have been even worse last year so definitely use caution when looking at Cano in 2015.
  • Hill, Aaron (10 HR, 5 JE) – Speaking of huge drops in power, we have Aaron Hill who also dropped from 30+ HR’s a few years ago to gradually becoming a below-average power hitter. His decline was already pretty scary but the fact that his few homers were aided by some luck gives even more reason to avoid Hill this year.
  • Adams, Matt (15 HR, 7 JE) – Adams had shown a bit of power throughout his career and then finally got to play a full season last year but unfortunately didn’t deliver huge power numbers and, as we see here, was also aided by luck with the few he got. So, if you have your eye on Adams as a post-hype sleeper… well, maybe don’t do that.
  • Heyward, Jason (11 HR, 5 JE) – File Heyward under the same category as Cano and Hill. Here’s a guy who was raking in 2012 but has been on a major decline in the power department for whatever reason and it doesn’t seem to be fluky either. Also, like Cespedes, he changed teams which is not a good sign for Heyward going forward either. Stay away.
  • Rendon, Anthony (21 HR, 9 JE) – And now we have a young hitter who had a breakout year and very well might be on many draft radars next year. Despite his fluky HR totals, he does have the benefit of youth so he might continue to develop power and overcome the fact that his 2014 numbers were a bit luck-driven.
  • Gardner, Brett (17 HR, 7 JE) – This shouldn’t be a shock. Gardner never hit more than 8 HR in a season before last year and seems to have had luck on his side. I hope he decides to go back to stealing bases more instead of hitting these fluky homers.

Potential Rebounds

In my years of doing this, I’ve found that it is a bit trickier to pick the players who had lower HR totals than they should have. I think I’ve found a decent method now though by looking at a lower than average number of “just enough” homers, a high percentage of “plenty” homers with a high true average distance and speed on their homers. When factoring all of that in, we should have guys who were hitting the ball hard but just not getting the benefit of some lucky homers mixed into their stats.

  • Lawrie, Brett (12 HR, 2 JE, 8 Plenty) – I was among those that bought into Lawrie as a sleeper not once but twice. He never delivered and now has been shipped to Oakland, which isn’t a great sign. But, in his shortened season last year, he did hit 12 HR in under 300 PA which isn’t too shabby and it looks like he was a bit on the unlucky side as well. If health and luck give Lawrie a break in 2015, he could be due for a big year. Of course, that means you’d have to trust Lawrie as a sleeper yet again which is tough.
  • Desmond, Ian (24 HR, 4 JE, 13 P) – Whether or not Desmond is able to expand on his HR totals to become a 30 HR guy, it’s encouraging to see that his power is at least legit and not a fluke.
  • Alvarez, Pedro (18 HR, 3 JE, 12 P) – Alvarez saw his power dwindle last year after two years of 30+ HR and it looks like it was a bit of bad luck (and also a shortened season). While he’ll never be a high AVG guy, you can invest in Alvarez in 2015 knowing that his power should return.
  • Morse, Michael (16 HR, 2 JE, 9 P) – Morse hasn’t gotten a full season of AB’s in a while but he does deliver in the power department when he’s able to play. Depending on whether he’ll be penciled in as a started in 2015, it looks like you can rely on Morse for some decent pop.
  • Avila, Alex (11 HR, 1 JE, 8 P) – It’s hard to say what his role will be in 2015 with the Tigers after some rough offensive years but there’s at least hope that he should hit for more power if he does get a full-time role in 2015.
  • Gordon, Alex (19 HR, 1 JE, 11 P) – It’s hard to believe that an Alex Gordon breakout would be in the works considering he’s consistently hovered around 20-25 HR’s but it looks like he might be able to be closer to that 25 HR number going forward as his 19 HR’s were a tad bit unlucky.

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